NO ONE CAN BE TOO RIGHT WING FOR CABLE NEWS…. Long-time readers may recall that I was the editor of Salon‘s now defunct “Blog Report” a few years ago, and highlighted posts from all kinds of blogs from across the political spectrum. As part of my duties, I read more than my share of far-right bloggers on a daily basis. Some were more “special” than others.
“Atlas Shrugs” blogger Pamela Geller was, by a healthy margin, one of the most inflammatory websites I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to do justice to a blog as radical as Geller’s, but I’d note by way of an example that “Atlas Shrugs” published a 12,000-word post in 2008 that argued, in all seriousness, that Barack Obama is the illegitimate son of Malcolm X.
So, what’s Geller up to lately? She’s apparently keeping busy on cable news.
Numerous mainstream media outlets have recently hosted right-wing “Atlas Shrugs” blogger Pamela Geller to discuss the controversy surrounding a proposed Islamic community center set to be built blocks away from Ground Zero. However, Geller’s history of outrageous, inflammatory and false claims, particularly when it comes to issues related to Islam, demonstrate that she cannot be expected to make accurate statements and should not be rewarded with a platform on national television.
Fox News isn’t the only culprit here. MSNBC invited Geller on earlier today, as did CNN. NBC Nightly News had her on yesterday, which followed some Fox News appearances in May.
Just to be perfectly clear, Geller has the right to use as much hateful rhetoric as she wants; it’s a free country. I might find every word on the “Atlas Shrugs” blog deeply offensive, but if I don’t like it, I don’t have to read it — she’s free to publish whatever she finds noteworthy.
But for major American media outlets to present her to the public as a credible voice, with something worthwhile to contribute to the public discourse, is a mistake. Media Matters put together some of her greatest hits — she’s called Obama “President Jihad,” out to “appease his Islamic overlords” — and the over-the-top vitriol is enough to make even a House Republican blush.
Granted, I don’t expect too much from the networks in terms of discretion. Erick Erickson called retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter a “goat f–king child molester,” and praised protesters for “tell[ing] Nancy Pelosi and the Congress to send Obama to a death panel,” and CNN put him on the payroll, praising his “important voice.”
I am, however, reminded of a piece Rick Perlstein wrote about a year ago. Hysterical right-wing extremism isn’t new, he noted, but how it’s treated is.
It used to be different. You never heard the late Walter Cronkite taking time on the evening news to “debunk” claims that a proposed mental health clinic in Alaska is actually a dumping ground for right-wing critics of the president’s program, or giving the people who made those claims time to explain themselves on the air. The media didn’t adjudicate the ever-present underbrush of American paranoia as a set of “conservative claims” to weigh, horse-race-style, against liberal claims. Back then, a more confident media unequivocally labeled the civic outrage represented by such discourse as “extremist” — out of bounds.
In the 21st century, we now know, no one on the right can be considered “out of bounds.”